Alfonso Caruana (Italian: [alˈfɔnso karuˈaːna]; born January 1, 1946) is a member of the Sicilian Mafia and was the head of the Sicilian Cuntrera-Caruana family branch in Canada.
He was born into the mob in Castelvetrano in the province of Trapani, Sicily. The family originated from Siculiana in the province of Agrigento, and is closely related to the Cuntrera-family through several marriages. Alfonso Caruana married his niece Giuseppina Caruana and has a son and two daughters.
When the Caruanas and Cuntreras moved to Montreal in the mid-1960s they became affiliated with Nick Rizzuto and his son, Vito Rizzuto. They began to work together in drug trafficking activities. Caruana acquired Canadian citizenship in 1978.
In 1968 Alfonso Caruana arrived in Canada with $100 in his pocket pretending to be an electrician. Ten years later he was stopped at the international airport of Zürich in Switzerland with $600,000 in a suitcase. He was released after paying a fee.
In the 1970s Caruana, together with is brothers Gerlando Caruana and Pasquale Caruana had to leave Montreal for Caracas in Venezuela because of a conflict with the Cotroni crime family. They returned in 1978 after the boss of the Cotroni family, Paolo Violi, was killed.
At the beginning of the 1980s Alfonso established himself near Lugano in a luxurious villa, supervising the laundering of the proceeds of heroin-trafficking. The funds were deposited in Canadian banks and channelled through Swiss bank accounts. Two years later he moved to the stockbroker belt near London. From his £450,000 mansion, he supervised a heroin pipeline from Thailand, through England, to Canada. His partner in the UK was Francesco Di Carlo. Caruana went to Thailand to set up the route. When the pipeline was dismantled in England in 1985, he managed to escape arrest, moving back to a Montreal suburb where he opened a pizzeria. Alfonso prepared the pizzas while his wife tended the pay-desk.
According to Di Carlo, who became a pentito (state witness) in 1996, Caruana was sentenced to death by the high council of the Mafia after he had fallen out of favour. Di Carlo was ordered to carry out the killing, but refused.
Meanwhile, Caruana organised a network that smuggled eleven metric tonnes of cocaine to Italy from 1991-94. Caruana brought together the cocaine producers of the Colombian Cartels with the Italian distributors, six 'Ndrangheta families from Calabria. At the time the Cuntrera-Caruana family was labeled as "the fly-wheel of the drug trade and the indispensable link between suppliers and distributors."
The investigation, code-named Operation Cartagine, started when the police seized 5,497 kilos of cocaine (a European record at the time) in March 1994 in Turin. A year later the Turin Prosecutors Office presented the indictment. The operation neutralized the most important supply-line of narcotics to Europe, investigators claimed.
Later years and convictions
In March 1995, Caruana filed for bankruptcy after declaring $250 worth of assets following a notice of assessment from Revenue Canada to pay $8.6 million in unpaid taxes, plus accrued interest and various penalties accounting for $21.2 million. In early 1997, Revenue Canada took him to Quebec Superior Court in Montreal to challenge his bankruptcy claims. Caruana claimed to be a car wash attendant that made $400 per week, however had Swiss bank accounts in his name, of which $21 million was moved through; he claimed most of the money belonged to his uncle Pasquale Cuntrera. Revenue Canada was unsuccessful in recovering the amounts due, as Caruana was officially bankrupt on paper; he was ordered to pay a mere $90,000 over a three-year period.
Caruana was sentenced in absentia on July 30, 1997 by the Palermo court of appeal to 21 years and 10 months for Mafia association, conspiracy to traffic narcotics and aggravated importing, possession and sale of large quantities of narcotics for his involvement in heroin trafficking in the 1980s. At the same time he was prosecuted in Turin for cocaine trafficking in the 1990s. The Palermo court concluded that the network was "a further indication of the high criminal capability" of Caruana who had "escaped every judicial initiative during the last decades and succeeded in reaching the top of the international drug trade, adjusting his criminal contacts and showing such skill that he is to be considered as one of the most important exponents in this sector."
In July 1998, after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) amassed enough evidence from surveillance and wiretaps on Caruana's home through Project Omerta, he was arrested at his Woodbridge, Ontario home, where police also found large amounts of hidden cash and jewelry. According to police, he controlled one of the largest drug dealing networks in the world. The officer in charge of the investigation, RCMP Chief Superintendent Ben Soave, said "If organized crime were a hockey game, Mr. Caruana would be [Wayne] Gretzky." In February 2000, after associate Oreste Pagano testified against Caruana, he pleaded guilty to charges of importing and trafficking narcotics, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Ontario Superior Court. Alfonso's brothers, Pasquale and Gerlando Caruana were also arrested in the Project, receiving 10 and 18-year prison sentences respectively.
In June 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled Caruana to be extradited to Italy to face jail time. On December 20, 2007, Caruana's efforts to appeal were dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada. He was extradited to Italy on January 29, 2008 to serve the nearly 22-year prison sentence.